Mobile phone exposure and spatial memory

Bioelectromagnetics. 2009 Jan;30(1):59-65. doi: 10.1002/bem.20443.


Radiofrequency (RF) emission during mobile phone use has been suggested to impair cognitive functions, that is, working memory. This study investigated the effects of a 2 1/2 h RF exposure (884 MHz) on spatial memory and learning, using a double-blind repeated measures design. The exposure was designed to mimic that experienced during a real-life mobile phone conversation. The design maximized the exposure to the left hemisphere. The average exposure was peak spatial specific absorption rate (psSAR10g) of 1.4 W/kg. The primary outcome measure was a "virtual" spatial navigation task modeled after the commonly used and validated Morris Water Maze. The distance traveled on each trial and the amount of improvement across trials (i.e., learning) were used as dependent variables. The participants were daily mobile phone users, with and without symptoms attributed to regular mobile phone use. Results revealed a main effect of RF exposure and a significant RF exposure by group effect on distance traveled during the trials. The symptomatic group improved their performance during RF exposure while there was no such effect in the non-symptomatic group. Until this new finding is further investigated, we can only speculate about the cause.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain / radiation effects*
  • Cell Phone*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Memory / radiation effects*